6 June 1997 Edition

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Parties run away from neutrality

Sinn Féin was the only political party to attend the press conference of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament on 30 May to call on the electorate to make defence of neutrality and abolition of nucelar weapons an election issue.

While the Green Party held their own press conference earlier that day at which MEP Patricia McKenna strongly backed neutrality, all the other parties, with the exception of Sinn Féin, have run a mile from the issue in this election. The reason is simple - they have all been compromised by their full embrace of EU integration and/or association with coalition partners who want to abandon neutrality.

The Labour Party is in the most dubious position of all. Dick Spring fought the 1992 election with a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum to enshrine neutrality in the constitution. In government that was forgotten, and as CND pointed out, Labour went on to support Irish membership of NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace. They share this policy with Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats.

Democratic Left say they oppose PfP membership but they were party to the decision on the eve of the election announcement to send Irish troops to serve under NATO command in Bosnia. Speaking at the CND press conference Mícheál MacDonncha of Sinn Féin quoted Gerry Adams' criticism of this decision as ``an insult to the electorate''.

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